Mike Shanahan wondered if he was putting new Washington Redskins kicker Kai Forbath in a bad spot. Ball at the Minnesota 32-yard line staring at fourth-and-13, he sent Forbath into the fire.
“I’m a nice guy, aren’t I? Breaking in a kicker his first kick is a 50-yarder,” Shanahan said. “I started thinking about that. I thought he’s not going to be very popular if he misses.”
Billy Cundiff missed five of his 12 field goal attempts before getting the ax; Graham Gano had a handful blocked last season. Forbath was lining up to be the 15th player to attempt a field goal for the Redskins since 2000.
From 50 yards out, he was good as gold.
“It was just a great opportunity to get a good start,” Forbath said. “We needed some points; we were down. Good snap, good hold, great protection. Just kicked it.”
Fans applauded as if Forbath just won the game. Or, more specifically, like he had just won a playoff game. Did he notice?
“No I didn’t,” Forbath said. “I was busy trying to give high-fives to my linemen for blocking.”
It was the 25-year-old UCLA product’s first NFL game and field goal attempt. Despite what should have been normal jitters, Forbath said it wasn’t that hard to avoid thinking too much.
“That’s exactly what I try not to do. I don’t try to to kick it harder than I normally do,” he said. “I just try to stay smooth and make good contact.”
Had Forbath missed, especially given the Redskins’ desire to find someone who can hit from 50-plus yards, it could have gotten ugly. They were down 9-0 and the offense had yet to get anything going.
Forbath had no doubt.
“All kicking is is going out there with confidence,” he said. “You know you’re going to make it and you hit good, that’s what’s going to happen.”
But every kicker said that. Cundiff did so a lot. He’s out of a job, while Forbath still has one after impressing his coach.
“To handle that situation like that, your first kick in the NFL and you’re kicking a 50-yard field goal and he nails it, it says a lot about him,” Shanahan said. “And hopefully he can keep it going.”